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  • Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri he has held the post three times.

    Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri he has held the post three times. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 December 2019
Opinion

This is the second time Hariri announces he will not be a PM candidate.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri withdrew himself as prime minister candidate for the second time Wednesday, leaving no obvious alternative to lead the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

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"I announce that I will not be a candidate to form the coming government," Hariri said in a statement. He was expected to be named PM on Monday, a post he has held three times, but this was delayed after major Christian parties said they would not support the candidacy. 

The consultations, which are scheduled for Thursday, require President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, to designate the candidate with the most support among Lebanon’s 128 MPs. "I am heading tomorrow to take part in the consultations ... on this basis, insisting that they not be delayed for any reason," Hariri added.

Yet this is the second time Hariri announces he will not be a premier candidate. On Nov. 26 the prominent Sunni Muslim politician officially withdrew his candidacy, to only have it reemerged on Dec. 8 when businessman Samir Khatib retracted his candidacy to lead the government.

With the support of Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Lebanon’s most senior Sunni cleric, Hariri had appeared to be the only candidate for the job earlier this week, despite political tensions with adversaries, including Aoun; but major political rifts and violent protests against his expected nomination weighted down on the final decision. 

Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 in the face of nationwide protests against Lebanon’s ruling elite. His decision toppled a coalition government including the powerful, Iran-backed Shia Muslim group Hezbollah, which opposed the decision.

After the PM quit, talks to agree on a new cabinet became mired in divisions between the prominent Sunni Muslim politician, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, and adversaries including Hezbollah. 

With the new developments, the Arab nation’s political crisis continues to deepen as there are no clear Sunni Muslim candidates for the post. According to Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing political system, the prime minister must always be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.

Meanwhile and ever since Oct. 17, protesters have been demanding a technocratic government formed by independent experts, non affiliated with traditional political parties to try and find a solution to an economic debacle that has now filtered into the financial system, pushing the country into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

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